When a leading maker of gas-driven, AR-style, semi-automatic rifles and pistols decides to enter the bolt-action rifle market, the industry is going to take notice. All the more when that maker is Daniel Defense, a company respected not only for its thoughtful and purpose-driven firearm designs, but also its impressive in-house manufacturing capabilities. I had the opportunity several years ago to visit Daniel Defense in Black Creek, Ga., and the firm’s design, prototyping and manufacturing facilities really stood out to me.
The company was actively designing and building its own parts and components—including the polymer furniture—in an AR industry that, at the time, was populated by assembly operations, rather than true manufacturers. And at the heart of Daniel Defense’s machining room was the company’s cold hammer forge, an impressive machine that literally beats steel blanks into contoured barrels complete with precise rifling and perfectly aligned chambers. In my opinion, it’s those design and manufacturing capabilities, those core competencies, which have allowed Daniel Defense to deftly enter the bolt-action rifle market segment, and could pave the way for future product expansions.
Returning to the task at hand, I’ve recently spend some quality time with the aforementioned bolt-action, the Daniel Defense Delta 5. Chambered in 6.5 mm Creedmoor—a .308 Win. model is also available, with presumably more chamberings inbound—I would categorize the Delta 5 as a hybrid precision hunting rifle.
At its heart is, of course, a cold hammer forged barrel, 24” in length and rifled with a 1:8” twist which is about perfect for 6.5 Creedmoor. The Delta 5’s barrel has a Heavy Palma contour which is a nice compromise between the ballistic benefits of a heavy, bull-style contour, and the weight savings of a lighter tube. What’s neat and different, though, is that the barrel actually leaves the hammer forge at contour—no additional lathe work required—and the hammer marks leave a striking pattern (pun intended) on its exterior surface.
The steel receiver is stout, to say the least, but I think it’s a forward-thinking design measure since the Delta 5’s barrels are user-interchangeable—a big tough action is going to cope well with barrel changes and will be able to accommodate a wide range of cartridges. The three-lug bolt is of the floating head design, and the oversize knob and 60-degree throw ensure the action is fast and easy to run. Atop the receiver is a length of Picatinny rail for mounting optics, and the rail has 20 m.o.a. of elevation built in, reinforcing the rifle’s long-range suitability.
The trigger is Timney’s Elite Hunter model which is a single-stage mechanism, adjustable for pull weight, and includes a two-position safety. Like the receiver, the stock, too, favors the somewhat larger, tougher profile of precision- and competition-style rifles. Made from carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer, the stock is quite adaptable thanks to its length-of-pull-adjustable butt and comb-height- adjustable cheekpeice, multiple M-LOK slots and QD ports, and positive ergonomic additions such as the swelled, vertical pistol grip, the triangular fore-end and the buttstock’s rear support hook.
In testing, the Delta 5 delivered excellent accuracy, easily exceeding Daniel Defense’s sub-m.o.a. guarantee. In fact, I consistently printed five-shot groups at 100 yds. that measured less than .75”. A few examples include: 0.62” with American Eagle 120-gr. OTMs—yes, standard, red-box American Eagle; 0.64” with hunting bullets, Federal Fusion 140-gr. soft points; and 0.47” with 130-gr. Federal Premium Gold Medal Bergers. Sure, at 9½ lbs. the gun is going to be on the heavy side for some, and may not be ideally suited for long slogs through tough terrain, but man, it’s a tack driver. From long-range sports to big-game hunts, the Delta 5 from Daniel Defense is ready and able to put lead on target.